UN official reports rise of neo-Nazism, antisemitism due to pandemic

Led by Austria, 47 countries signed a pledge at the Geneva session to combat Jew hatred.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The UN’s Human Rights Council (UNHRC) held a session Monday specifically targeting the recent sharp rise in antisemitism and neo-Nazism and said there was a direct connection to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In its official press release on the session, the UNHRC stated that there has been “a recent global resurgence in antisemitism and antisemitic violence.” Its Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, Tendayi Achiume, linked the phenomenon in part to the worldwide disease that has claimed over 4.8 million lives in the last two years.

In her report on “combatting the glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and related ideologies,” said the statement, Achiume said that the pandemic “had continued to contribute to antisemitic, racist, and xenophobic hate speech, conspiracies, and public rhetoric.” She urged member states “to seriously consider how to combat increasing expressions of such intolerance” in their responses to the disease.

Before the session began, some 30 states sent in prepared statements on the issue, including Israel, which pointed out that antisemitism was coming from the extreme Left as well as the fascist Right. Jerusalem said that its analysis of worldwide data showed that both groups had exploited “the uncertainty created by the pandemic to scapegoat specific groups,” including Jews. Its statement specified the particular danger of online hate speech, especially on social alternative platforms, and said that there is an “imperative need to confront” it.

In his own video remarks, Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, who spoke on behalf of a group of states, said, “We will remain steadfast in our pledge, never again.”

The “venom” of Jew hatred “still exists, right in the midst of our societies,” he lamented. “We restate our commitment to combating antisemitism and all forms of racism, prejudice and discrimination anywhere, at any time.”

“This isn’t a fight between antisemites and Jews. This fight is between antisemites and anyone who believes in the values of equality, justice and liberty,” he added.

At the end of the debate, 47 countries signed a declaration pledging to combat antisemitism that Austria had worked out with the Czech Republic and Slovakia with the help of the World Jewish Congress. The signatories included most of Europe, the Nordic countries, several in South America, the UK, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand.

On Tuesday, the pledge grew teeth when the European Commission presented a wide-ranging plan for fighting antisemitism while encouraging Jewish growth within its members states.  On the protective end it calls for developing and implementing national strategies against Jew hatred, securing Jewish institutions, and adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism for legal use.

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On the positive side, the report said that the EU would fund initiatives to teach the general public about Jewish life, promote Holocaust remembrance in educational institutions for all ages, and do research on radicalization trends and contemporary antisemitism in order to better combat them.

Ironically, at Monday’s session dedicated to the United Nations Palestinian Relief Works Agency, which runs hundreds of schools for stateless Palestinians in the Arab world, Judea and Samaria and Gaza, the UNHRC head prevented a UN watchdog organization from presenting damning evidence of UN school staffers’ antisemitism and glorification of terrorism against Israel.